Cultural policy as a source of national culture
Culture is the foundation of Europe, all keep repeating over and over. Without culture, it is impossible to understand our old continent. In reality, however, Europeans are talking about monetary systems, unemployment, new technologies, immigration and security. Culture remains only for exhibitions, festivals and tourism. Indeed, since 1989 Europe worked together closely in the areas of economy transport, science and technology only. Even nowadays, these questions appear to be more urgent than defining the role of the humanities and culture in the face of the issues of security in Europe, for example.
On the other hand, the terrifying socio-cultural phenomena linked to politics demonstrate how culture is vital for maintaining the protection of human rights and mutual understanding.
Cultural history and the rule of law are the bases which shaped our constitutions, international law, the Charter of human rights and freedoms, essential for the future of Europe.
The fundamental challenges for the “old world” of today are ethnic cleanses and violations of peace and democracy.
I am convinced that the current situation is not the only crisis we will have to face as a result of the changes since 1989. The crisis situation in Ukraine and Russia, the Western Balkans, and the Middle East, as well as issues of borders and various religions are all challenges that will challenge us in the near future.
And, all of these complications are certainly an immense task for humanities and culture.
What could be a new scientific task and a subject of discourse for contemporary humanities and culture?
Does “New Europe” still need the intellectual expertise and commitment, which is traditionally generated and provided by a culture?
Where will we include the compensatory function of philosophy and humanist thinking?
The German philosopher Odo Marquard draws attention to the compensatory function of these pillars of humanity in the face of the Weberian world of rationalist disenchantment and very earthly effects of secularisation since the Enlightenment. As if his thoughts were to provide a new spiritual home for our confused and often cynical way of thinking.
However, in my opinion, his concept cannot work in reality for two reasons:
1) Our instantly perceived disillusionment of the shortcomings of modern society, cultural alienation, city life, insufficient environmental friendliness, enhanced sensation of social and cultural fragmentation, as well as the political and economic crisis, cannot be healed by philosophy, humanist thoughts, and cultural events.
On the contrary, it can be solved only by appropriate political and social measures, through the creation of new frameworks for everyday life, work, democratic participation in public and cultural life. The humanities and culture should not compensate or even replace the policy.
It could be a path into the future which is too dangerous.
2) The effects of secularism cannot be compensated for by the aesthetics, philosophy or stories with morals. We have to find an answer to the problems relating to religions.
One of the most serious consequences of the Enlightenment is that we for a long time we have frequently intermingled the problem of religious needs and desires with highlighting the appropriate institutional and political role of religion in secular societies.
Although we started to believe that the religious desire would disappear, they still appear and gain a new meaning, as evidenced by the popularity of modern religious movements and sects.
Talking about God, we need to explain the history of the world, as one of the greatest desires of the mankind is salvation.
What could be a new role for culture?
In my opinion we need not demand for precise answers and strategies. After all, the processes of review and reorientation are already underway.
First of all, we need to spread the knowledge about cultures, about the differences between them, and also about what they have in common.
For that we need more financial and human investment. Not only in the field of cultural education in schools, but also in cultural institutions such as theatres, concert halls, places where the young generation meets … and so on. Based on the experience of my country I can responsibly say that the new identity of Austria was largely created by culture. We are not a nation in the sense of the 19th the century. Instead, we always say that we are a cultural nation.
I do not know whether that is really true, but we have tried to create a cultural policy to allow us to find the source of our culture, which we have to present ourselves with in the future.
We were also looking for what we have in common with our neighbours. I am deeply convinced that investing in culture is the best investment not only in the Austrian, but also our common European future.
Ex-Minister of Science, Education and Culture, Austria